Three of the nation’s largest manufacturers of baby food, and many other smaller companies, are being sued. The plaintiffs, an environmental group called the Environmental Law Foundation, state that the companies have trace amounts of lead in their food and should contain warning labels on their packages to inform customers.
The state of California is the only state in the nation with right-to-know laws requiring businesses to inform customers about their inclusion of ingredients that have been linked to cancer and other damage, according to Bloomberg. This law was voted into effect by Proposition 65.
However, according to the Associated Press, the baby food manufacturers, which include the likes of Gerber Products and Del Monte Foods, say that the traces of lead in their products, like grape juice, packaged pears and peaches, sweet potatoes and carrots, is well below the Food and Drug Administration’s levels that require warning. Both sides do agree that certain baby foods have traces of lead.
Lead exposure can lead to lower IQs and damage to a developing child’s brain. A major source of lead was from leaded gasoline and paint, which is no longer used. However, because of lead exposure from the soil, old paint and contaminated drinking water, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as 500,000 – or 1 in 38 – children have lead poisoning today.
The companies argue that the warning label will deter parents from buying fruits and vegetables for their children at a time when officials suggest that people eat more, not less, of these foods. However, the environmental group suing the companies charge that informing parents of lead exposure and eating fruits are not mutually exclusive.
The environmental group also states that no amount of lead is considered to be safe by scientists, especially not for pregnant women or newborns.
It is unlikely that a company that makes baby food will put a label on their packages informing parents of the traces of lead, because doing so would severely impact their business. As a result, the environmental group also hopes that these companies will eliminate the use of lead altogether.
“Everyone assumes that a company selling foods for children will never offer a product for sale that carries a warning label,” Jim Wheaton, a lawyer for ELF, said to the Associated Press. “They will take the steps their competitors apparently already are taking to offer product with no lead or so low no warning is required.”
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